If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys

Computers have done things super easy for a lot of us, but it also brought some disadvantages. When I was younger (it is sad, but I’m now entitled to use this phrase),  I learned to score and review psychometric tests by hand. Of course, I WELCOMED the computer and  software that allowed me to get the results in seconds instead of spending 20 min on each test, but I didn’t regret learning what each item/category/combination meant in the overall result.

However, in these days of self-taught learning, a comment I hear often is: “why do you pay a professional when you can give the opportunity to someone who is beginning his/her career or my friend who also does that (as a hobby, they usually fail to mention)”.  Meaning, I won’t pay a “Communication Specialist” $XXX when I can pay a “Social Media guru” just $X.

We need to remember that you get what you pay for. If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.  It’s that simple.


You wouldn’t dare allowing a student to perform a heart transplant surgery. Yes, everyone has to start somewhere, but that’s the reason why Career paths exist. You need to identify if the skill needed is easily acquirable.

One of my friends is working at a hospital in Montreal. She’s really competent and applied to a higher position that she’s definitely qualified for. She’s also an immigrant and although her French is very good, her writing style is different than the people born and raised here. The recruiter asked her to write a sample letter, and despite the letter was beautifully written, well structured, concise and effective, the recruiter didn’t like it because the way she phrased something wasn’t the usual way (that IMHO is an old-fashioned style). Therefore, she was rejected for that position.  The recruiter will probably hire someone who lacks the experience and tact to deal with upset customers, but is able to write letters as beauty as templates.

So, again, there is no substitute for good judgement. If the task that you need to do is:

  • sensitive (such as a  Corporate Culture campaign after a company merge)
  • permanent (e.g. designing your mission and vision posters)
  • impacts a lot of people (such as answering the complains in a hospital)
  • or has an impact in your resources (hiring a Finance Manager, for example), you better invest on it

As one of my mentors say: Do what you want and pay for it.  I’m a big fan of doing things myself, but I always have this question in mind: what are the consequences?

One thing is to design and print my own training course handouts, materials and diplomas, and another one is to negotiate a collective agreement with the union. Unfortunately, in order to know what are the consequences, I need to know what’s at a stake. And that doesn’t happen until you move in the learning circle from unconsciously incompetent to consciously competent.

Does this mean you cannot change careers after 10 years or you cannot enrich your work with some other experiences that are not directly related? Absolutely not. There are amazing stories of people who excelled in two different fields, such as Marie Forleo, or Anthony Robbins. It has to do with passion, preparation, and professionalism. I would bake a cake for my niece’s birthday, I would even bake for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, but I wouldn’t bake your wedding cake, although I love baking and I am very good at it. If you are going to pay for it, you deserve the best your money can get you.

As for enriching your work, yes, you might give better advice to businesses in Social Media, for example, if you have developed communication plans, worked in the internet industry and have taken some relevant courses. In that way, you have the real world experience, the structure and the technical knowledge. That’s after all how you get into a field that is still developing, but you have to have someone professional on your team, so you can avoid falling into beginner’s mistakes.

So, at the end of the day, it pays to spend more in a graphic designer who worked for months to learn Image analysis, Color theory, and Form theory, instead of someone who just invested a couple of days learning how to copy and paste in Photoshop.


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Social science geek. Career and Personal Coach. OD enthusiast. Passionate about change, challenges and creativity.

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